Sunday, May 3, 2015

We Won't Be Back



Diamond Head:
 Making Sense of Their CD Releases
Part 2





Muthas, we covered the albums from Diamond Head’s classic period from 1980-1983 in Part 1, and in Part 2 we are going to cover the later studio albums, compilations and live albums.  This is where their discography gets even more confusing, if you can believe that!  First we are going to cover their later studio albums.

Death And Progress

In 1993, the band actually released a new studio album with both Sean Harris and Brian Tatler on board, but, unfortunately, Colin Kimberley and Duncan Scott were not involved.  However, a couple of Metal luminaries were on hand – Tony Iommi, Dave Mustaine and Max Norman.  The results were fairly pedestrian with nothing on the album approaching the quality of their classic material.  This album should once and for all convince you that Sean Harris is not interested in being in a heavy band as most of the songs sound like they could have been on a Thunder album. It’s definitely not the amazing return to form that we all wanted, but rather an average collection of hard rock songs.  It’s not terrible, but it’s not anything noteworthy either.

There are two versions of this album:




1993 – Castle Communications/Essential/Bronze – Cat. No. ESS CD 192
This is the most common version of the album and is abundantly available on the used market. 




2001 – Castle Music – Cat. No. CMRCD241

This is a reissue with new artwork and has reportedly been remastered which somehow actually makes the album sound worse!  It’s unlikely you’ll run across this version, and I don’t recommend it.    

All Will Be Revealed & What’s In Your Head?

I am lumping their two most recent albums together because neither feature Sean Harris, and without him the resulting music lacks any of the old Diamond Head magic.  Harris might be impossible to deal with and temperamental as all hell, but his vocals are amazing and the band suffers without him.  Neither of these releases is essential to your collection, and I don’t really recommend them. Again, they aren’t terrible, but they aren’t really the Diamond Head that you’re expecting to hear. Here’s the info on each:



All Will Be Revealed
2005 – Livewire – Cat. No. LW015-2



What’s In Your Head?
2007 – Livewire/Cargo Records – Cat. No. LW020-2

Compilations

Here’s where things start getting fun as there are a bewildering array of Diamond Head compilations, and four of them all have the same title! Which takes us to:

I Got A Case Of The Am I Evils

I guess it should come as no surprise that Am I Evil is a popular name for Diamond Head compilations considering it’s the band’s most well-known song.  However, there are four separate compilations with that name and most of them have completely different content!  Here’s how they break down:




1994 – Heavy Metal Records – Cat. No. WKFM XD92

This collection features another stunning album cover from Rodney Matthews, a slipcase, and a nice booklet with full lyrics.  The vinyl version was originally released by FM Revolver in 1987.  Of course the booklet makes no mention of the origin of the songs, but it turns out that these are all demos from the years 1978-1981.  In addition, these were all remixed by Brian Tatler in 1986 - 1987.  Hooray! More remixes!  They are reverbed to hell and back with a very annoying, clattering cymbal sound just like his remixes of Lightning To The Nations. It’s interesting to hear early versions of some Diamond Head classics, but don’t be fooled, this is NOT a greatest hits package. I recommend this for die-hard collectors only. It’s unlikely that you’ll run across it anymore because it has been out of print for many years.




1999 – Chrisly Records – Cat. No. CR 25001

Guess what, despite the completely different artwork and label, this is the same exact material as on the 1994 Heavy Metal Records version of Am I Evil.  There is no difference at all even though the booklet goes to great lengths to NOT explain where this material came from.  Also, this version is readily available at distributors right now and should be avoided.  Don’t buy this unless you’re insane like me, and you are dying to hear remixed demos.




2004 – Sanctuary Records – Cat. No. CMEDD880

This compilation is actually a honest-to-god greatest hits collection!  Hooray!  This is a nice two disc set that covers their entire career up to 2001 .  The songs are a mixture of material from Lightning To The Nations, Borrowed Time, Canterbury and Death And Progress.  There’s also a couple of live tracks and an acoustic version of “Lightning To The Nations.”  This is a fairly comprehensive collection and I recommend it if you only want a greatest hits package.  It’s out of print, but easy to acquire on the used market fairly cheaply.




2013 – Spectrum Music/Universal – Cat. No. SPEC2139

This is the newest Diamond Head CD to hit the market and it is a single disc that features material from their first four albums and a couple of live tracks from the BBC archives.  It’s not a bad single disc set, and is readily available.  I prefer the 2004 Sanctuary compilation to this one, but if you only want a single CD, this isn’t a terrible choice.

Compilations That Aren’t Called Am I Evil




Behold The Beginning

1992 – Metal Blade Records – Cat. No. 3984-14005-2

The granddaddy of them all! This was the earliest compilation of Diamond Head songs and is composed of remixes done by Brian Tatler in 1986.  Yep, those same old remixes are back again and they still sound like crap.  Six cuts from Lightning To The Nations are featured, as well as four songs from various singles.  The U.S. CD version adds the track “Am I Evil?” and has a liner notes essay from Lars Ulrich.  Lars even trashes the shitty quality of the remixes. Ha! Also, the liner notes are wrong because they bizarrely state, “All tracks form the album Lightning To The Nations except “Waited Too Long” released as a single.”  I have no idea why the liner notes say this because it’s clearly incorrect.  Even stranger is this incorrect “fact” has crept into the band’s discography on places like discogs.com and metal-archives.com. 

I don’t recommend this compilation because it’s composed of the inferior 1986 remixes, however, you are definitely going to run across this.  It’s been in print since 1992 and is readily available online from many distributors.  Avoid.




Singles

1992 – MCA Records Japan – Cat. No. MVCM-321

You aren’t likely to run across this one, but I have it so I might as well cover it here.  This is a compilation of all of the band’s singles from 1980-1983.  Well, actually, it’s not that at all, but rather a strange combination of 1986 remixes and material from their MCA albums.  The pre–MCA “singles” are merely the Brian Tatler 1986 remixes and not the original single versions.  The MCA material is all original though, and was rare at the time of release.  This is a novelty and not something you should waste money on at this point as all of the material is available elsewhere.




To Heaven From Hell

1997 – Metal Blade Records – Cat. No. 3984-14136-2

This little five track EP has liner notes that claim this is a collection of demos from 1978-1981 that were remixed by Brian Tatler in 1987.  So are these some new demos that we haven’t heard before?  Of course not!  Instead, this is half of the material that was presented on the original Am I Evil compilation from 1987. What a useless ripoff this is.  Not only is it the same old shit, but it’s only half of the demos and they charge full price for it.  This is still in print and I urge you not to buy it.  Metal Blade should feel ashamed of this cash grab.




The Best of Diamond Head

1999 - Half Moon/Universal – Cat. No. HMNCD 046
This compilation was a breath of fresh air when it was released because it was composed of songs from the MCA releases, and that material had not been released on CD in the U.S. up to that point.  There are no Brian Tatler remixes and no material from Lightning To The Nations. This is only studio material from Borrowed Time and Canterbury without any demos or live tracks.  This is not a bad single disc best of, but it is limited in scope and had been surpassed by other compilations.



   
Diamond Nights

2000 – Metal Blade Records – Cat. No. 3984-14336-2

This compilation was the first compilation to feature the original mixes of all of the band’s pre-MCA singles and the entirety of the Lightning To The Nations album. The songs were all remastered from the original source by Dirk Buro and they sound great.  In fact, these remasters were the source for the 2001 Sanctuary Records version of Lightning To The Nations (mystery solved!)  For some unknown reason, Metal Blade chose to shuffle the song order all up rather than presenting them in chronological or even album order.  They also thought it would be a good idea to give it a name that’s very close to another Diamond Head song/EP name – Diamond Lights.  Lights, nights, whatever!

In addition, this is the only compilation to feature the “It’s Electric (Remix)” from the 1981 Diamond Lights EP which while it's certainly not essential, it is nice to have.  This compilation is still readily available and I highly recommend it if you come across it and you don’t already have a version of Lightning To The Nations that has all the pre-MCA singles on it.   

Live Albums

Unfortunately, there aren’t many live albums from any era of the band that have been released and only two are currently in print:




Bonus Live Tracks

2009 – Universal Music – Cat. No. 5320200

This is the third disc that’s included in The MCA Years box set.  It contains 11 tracks and is composed of the band’s performance from the 1982 Reading Rock Festival, and their 1982 BBC In Concert recordings.  Overall, this is a nice collection of vintage live material from when the band was at their peak.  It’s yet another reason why I heartily recommend The MCA Years box set. 




Live At The BBC

2010 – Universal Music – Cat. No. 5329138

Here we have a two-disc set of live material from 1980, 1982 and 1993. Essentially all the material from The MCA Years box set is here along with the band’s 1993 show from the Milton Keynes Bowl. The 1993 set is pretty good and was previously released on the long out of print CD called Evil Live. I would only recommend you pick up this set if you don’t have the box set, or you just have to have the 1993 show.  There is nothing else on it that’s exclusive.


Missing In Action?

You may be asking if there’s anything official that has never made it on to CD and this answer is…yes.  To lessen confusion earlier I said that all their pre-MCA material has been reissued on CD, but one song actually hasn’t.  For some reason, the single version of “Helpless” has never made it on to any CD that I can find.  “Helpless” was originally the b-side of the “Shoot Out The Lights” single which was the band’s first single.  This version of “Helpless” is two minutes shorter than the album version, but other than that, is not much different.  I can only assume that’s why it’s never been reissued.  You can check it out below:




A Brief Note On Wax

If you are a vinyl collector, the good news is that because Diamond Head was signed to MCA, their old vinyl is plentiful and can be had for good prices.  They issued several nice singles, EPs and even a picture disc or two.  There have been virtually no reissues of their albums on vinyl to date, but I suspect that will change in the near future.  You are only going to run in to difficulty when you get to their pre-MCA material, and Lightning To The Nations goes for all sorts of crazy prices now.  Hey, at least the CDs are plentiful and cheap!

___________________________________________________________


Well that’s the end of the Diamond Head CD mysteries.  To recap, I recommend you simply buy these two releases:

Lightning To The Nations  2011 – Universal Music – Cat. No. 2785026

The MCA Years  2009 – Universal Music – Cat. No. 530197



That’s it!  Those are the only two you need and you’ll have all their pre-MCA material, all their MCA material and some nice live tracks. I hope this helped sort out the Diamond Head CD discography and saved you a bit of cash too.


As always, MAKE MINE METAL!

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Dead Reckoning

Diamond Head: 
Making Sense of Their CD Releases
Part 1




Muthas, Diamond Head is generally considered one of the best and most influential bands of the NWOBHM.  Lars Ulrich thinks so highly of them that they were the only band to have two songs on his seminal NWOBHM compilation New Wave of British Heavy Metal ’79 Revisited, and Metallica has covered four Diamond Head songs on various releases.  Certainly every metalhead is familiar with Am I Evil because of Metallica.  I know that’s how I first became aware of Diamond Head and that began my quest to acquire their catalog. 

Little did I know that their CD releases are a tangled web of remasters, remixes, live albums and compilations.  Adding further to my confusion, the band was very prolific in the late 70s and early 80s and released all sorts of demo versions of songs that went on to be re-recorded for official releases.  To make matters even worse, the rights to their various recordings were spread across several record labels and countries, and all of these labels put out all sorts of CDs without any explanation of where the songs came from.  It’s total chaos! 

The good news is that I have purchased nineteen of these releases, and tried to track down the origin of each and every one.  I will go through each release and detail the catalog number, contents and whether or not it’s worth owning.  When all is said and done, you are only going to need to purchase a grand total of two(!) items to have the absolutely essential material from Diamond Head

Lightning To The Nations

As you probably already know, Diamond Head’s first album was 1980s Lightning To The Nations.  Now, the album actually didn’t even have a name when it was self-released by the band.  It came in a plain white sleeve with plain white labels without any identifying information at all!  The album was sold through mail order and through shows, and the band members would sign the cover and sometimes write a song title and lyrics on the cover.  A second pressing added song titles to the labels, but there was still no album title.  This led to the album being known initially as The White Album.

In 1981, Woolfe Records, a small German label, reissued the album with a proper cover and gave it the title Lightning To The Nations. Incredibly, Diamond Head’s manager sent the only copy of the master tapes of the album to Woolfe Records and they never sent it back!  This would lead to all sorts of shenanigans in the future, and it would take Lars Ulrich, of all people, to set things straight. 

The commonly available CD issues of Lightning To The Nations are as follows:




1. 1992 - Metal Blade Records – Cat. No. 3984-14006-2

So this was the first CD readily available in the United States of the album and it’s probably great, right?  Nope.  Guess what?  This is actually not the original version of the album, but rather it is composed of remixes done in 1986 by guitarist Brian Tatler.  He claimed to have remixed the album to make it sound more “modern.”  What he really did was reverb the absolute shit out of the album, and lay on an annoying as hell drum sound as a bonus.  Ugh. (These remixes will loom large when we get to the discussion of compilations.)  This was the first CD version that I ever owned and it was the only version that you could obtain for quite a while.  It only contains the original seven songs without any bonus material and has a crappy cover. It’s become scarce over the years as it is now out of print, and I highly recommend you don’t buy it as it’s completely extraneous and sounds like shit.




2. 1997 – High Vaultage Records – Cat. No. HV-1014

High Vaultage Records from Germany struck next with this fifteen track version that featured the original cover artwork from Woolfe Records.  To my knowledge, this is the only CD to feature this artwork.  High Vaultage always does great reissues, so this is probably top notch, right?  Well, it does have the original album and all of the various singles that the band released before getting signed to MCA.  It also has a very nice booklet that is loaded with good info, full lyrics and a ton of pictures.  Unfortunately, I cannot recommend that you buy this CD because High Vaultage did not have access to the master tapes and simply used some vinyl pressings as their audio source.  As a result, this CD sounds very odd and isn’t much of an improvement over the 1992 Metal Blade version.  This is still in print, but I recommend you avoid it because there are much better options available.




3. 2001 – Sanctuary Records Group – Cat. No. CMRCD239

Remember when Sanctuary Records was reissuing tons of amazing NWOBHM albums and compilations, before Beyonce’s dad drove them in to bankruptcy?  Well, this CD was part of that program of reissues, and consists of the original 1980 album and all their pre-MCA singles and EP releases except for one track. The missing track is “It’s Electric (Remix)” that was released on the Diamond Lights EP.  The CD is housed in a white embossed slipcase and the booklet is a replica of the original album cover with the signatures of all the band members. The CD sounds fine, but the music is licensed from Horgi Licensing, which is the same company that licensed the High Vaultage version.  I am not sure if this is vinyl sourced, but I don’t think it is, because the sound is very good.  This version is now out of print, but if you find it cheap it’s not a bad purchase.




4. 2011 – Universal Muisc – Cat. No. 2785026

This is the latest version of the album to be issued and it’s an absolute gem.  This is sourced from the original master tapes and beautifully remastered by Andy Pearce.  The booklet is excellent and there are fourteen tracks spread over two CDs.  This version is 100% authorized by the band as the rights to the album have now reverted to Brian Tatler.  Hold on a minute - where did Universal Music get the master tapes?  The last I told you, Woolfe Records had them in Germany.  Well, back when Lars Ulrich was doing his NWOBHM compilation, he found out the masters were at the house of the president of Woolfe Records and he promptly sent a couple of guys over to the president’s house and they forced him to return them!  They now reside in a vault that is 100% under the control of the band.  Well played Lars. 

This is the ultimate version of the album.  It does have the same fourteen tracks as the Sancutary version, and some brand new, much better artwork and a thick booklet.  I highly recommend this version and, if you only want one Diamond Head CD, get this one.


Borrowed Time

After a couple of years of hard work, lots of touring and robust sales of their self-financed LP and various singles, Diamond Head was finally signed to a major label.  Unfortunately, that major label was MCA Records and MCA knew exactly two things about marketing a Metal band – jack and shit.  MCA was notorious for signing many NWOBHM hopefuls and totally fucking them over with a complete lack of any support and little in the way of marketing. Diamond Head was not the exception to this rule and their signing to MCA did nothing to help them.  While they were signed to MCA they did manage to issue two LPs.  One was pretty good and the other not so much.

The first was 1982’s Borrowed Time and it featured five new songs, two re-recorded songs – “Am I Evil” and “Lightning To The Nations,” and absolutely stunning artwork by Rodney Matthews.  Unfortunately, the production of the album was much more polite than Lightning To The Nations, with Tatler’s guitar work in particular being robbed of much of its power.  As a result, the two re-recordings are subpar when compared to the original versions – don’t let anyone try to convince you otherwise. 

Paradoxically, even though this was released on a major label, official CD versions have been scarce until very recently.  There were reissues released in 1989 and 1992 in Japan and a 1992 French reissue, but other than that, there are only two CD versions commonly available in the United States:



1. 2007 – Metal Mind Productions – Cat. No. MASS CD 1078 DG

 Metal Mind Productions from Poland is well known for producing high quality reissues that are generally housed in digipaks with many bonus tracks and nice sound.  Borrowed Time is no exception to that.  Their version includes the original seven tracks and an additional seven bonus tracks – the entirety of the Four Cuts EP and the three track In The Heat Of The Night single.  It should be noted that the Four Cuts EP has a re-recording of “Shoot Out The Lights” (also inferior to the original version) to make their discography even more confusing. Thanks guys! 

The sound on this version is good, but the liner notes make no mention of any remastering, so I would assume it’s not.  This edition is out of print though, but there’s no real need to spend a bunch of ducats on it because of the next version we’re going to discuss.  As an aside, Brian Tatler claims that Universal Music told him this is a bootleg.  I’ve read nothing else that either confirms or denies that.



2. 2009 – Universal Music – Cat. No. 530198

In 2009, Universal Music released a nice little box set called Diamond Head – The MCA Years.  This set features a clamshell box, a very nice booklet chock full of good information and replica LP versions of Borrowed Time, Canterbury and a bonus disc of live material.  The entire set is once again beautifully remastered by Andy Pearce. 

This version of Borrowed Time has seven bonus tracks including the Four Cuts EP and four songs from a BBC Radio 1 Session.  The sound is great and the bonus tracks are excellent.  This box set is readily available, cheap and still in print.  I highly recommend you buy it.



Canterbury

It’s at this point in our story that we have to talk about one of the most baffling career choices in the history of Heavy Metal.  For some reason, Diamond Head decided that their third album would be a great time to completely shift gears and attempt to emulate bands like U2 and Big Country. WTF?!!  I’ve heard many people say that this is comparable to what Def Leppard did with Pyromania. At least Pyromania was still identifiable as hard rock, even if it was more commercial.  Canterbury represented a virtual wholesale rejection of heaviness for the sake of pop-rock stylings. 

I have no idea what the hell they were thinking, but it has become clear to me as I have read more about Sean Harris that he really has no interest in being in a Metal band.  He’s interested in more commercial styles of music and he tried to change Diamond Head into a pop-rock band with this 1983 release.  As you may have already guessed, Canterbury was a complete and utter disaster that completely immolated the band’s fledgling career.  The drummer and bass player either quit or were fired during the recording process, which should give you an idea of how bad things got. 

Once the album was issued fans couldn’t wait to NOT buy it.  The sales were terrible and to make things worse, the initial pressing was marred by a defect that caused it to skip resulting in a recall of 20,000 copies!  The album was also the end of their major label deal as MCA dumped them in 1984. 
The album does have a couple of decent tracks that were re-workings of earlier material – “To The Devil His Due” and “Knight Of The Swords” and it’s no coincidence that these are the songs most people cite to as being the best on the album.  “Ishmael” is a bit of Zeppelin-esque pretentiousness that’s not half bad, but the rest of the tracks are straight up pop-rock with loads of sugary-sweet lyrics and hooks.  If you don’t believe me, then check out “One More Night” for proof:



The strange thing about this album is it becomes clear that Diamond Head could have been a pretty good pop-rock band as they could produce catchy, commercial songs.  However, when you start out with songs like “Lightning To The Nations” and “Am I Evil” the chances of a smooth transition to pop are about zero percent.

CD versions of this album are not very numerous just like Borrowed Time.  Here’s what is readily available:



1.  1989 – MCA Records Japan – Cat. No. 18P2-2747

Now this is an oddball.  Lately, I’ve been seeing this version for sale from a couple of distributors.  I ordered one to see what it was and it appears to be a Japanese release from 1989, but I think it’s a nicely made bootleg.  There is no obi strip, but there is a Japanese language insert.  The lack of an obi is baffling if this is legit.  The CD matrix has no information on it other than the word Canterbury, and the printing on the actual CD is somewhat shoddy.  The booklet has complete lyrics, but there are no bonus tracks.  I would suggest you avoid this if you come across it.

2. 2007 – Metal Mind Productions – Cat. No. Mass CD 1079 DG

This is the companion to the Metal Mind Borrowed Time reissue and it sports the same format of gold CD, digipak and bonus tracks.  There are only three bonus tracks – an extended version of “Makin’ Music” (as if anyone needed that!), a live version of “Sucking My Love”, and a band interview.  This release is still readily available on Amazon, so it’s not a bad choice if you absolutely have to have this album.



3. 2009 – Universal Music – Cat. No. 5320199

This is the version that’s in the Diamond Head – The MCA Years box set. It’s remastered by Andy Pearce and has four bonus tracks – the “Makin’ Music” Extended Version, and three previously unreleased demos.  The demos are “Can’t Take No More,” “Time’s On My Side,” and “Come To Hear You Play.”  Unfortunately, there’s no information about these demos, but they are better than most of the material on the actual album.  My guess is they were pre-production demos for the album, because they sound similar to the material on Borrowed Time.  If anybody out there knows what these are, leave me a comment.  As I mentioned before, I highly recommend you get this boxset.

________________________________________________

Okay folks, that’s the end of Part 1.  In Part 2, we’ll cover the newer studio albums, the live albums and the absolutely insane number of compilations.  If you thought Diamond Head’s discography was confusing so far, you ain’t seen nothing yet!


As always, MAKE MINE METAL!

Sunday, March 1, 2015

From Utah They Came With Iron And Fire

Visigoth – The Revenant King



Metal Blade Records – 2015

Muthas, have you gotten your fill of music about swords, sorcery, warriors, battles, wizards, mammoths, brotherhood, Hyperborea, necromancers, and vengeance? Of course you haven’t!  Who has?  Well, we are all in luck because Visigoth from Salt Lake City, Utah has delivered an album chock full of epic, glory-filled Metal!  To give you an idea of where they are coming from musically, they did a cover of an Omen song on their 2010 demo, and their new album features a ripping cover of Manilla Road’s “Necropolis!”  They have taken these classic sounds and have built their mighty sonic monolith, The Revenant King, on top of it and the result is a kick-ass masterpiece. 

The album is composed of eight original songs and the aforementioned cover tune with a total running time of just over one hour.  Normally we would complain of a seemingly bloated length, but there are absolutely no boring cuts and, as a result, the album actually feels much shorter.  Every original song is a multi-part epic that takes the listener on a sonic adventure to the mythical realms of yore.  Tracks one through four and nine are all new material, and tracks five through eight are re-recordings of demos or EP cuts and the Manilla Road cover. 

The musicianship is top notch with excellent and tasteful guitar work, crunchy bass, booming drums and the superb vocals of Jake Rogers.  In fact, his vocals are what set this album apart from most other Epic Metal bands. The vocals in many Epic Metal albums are marred in some way - weird sounding, nasal, harsh, etc... and make those albums less enjoyable as a result.  That’s not the case here because Jake’s vocals are powerful and have a nice touch of grit that toughens up the band’s sound.  This isn’t some puffy-shirted, rapier-wielding, foppish warbling.  No sir, these vocals are clad in chainmail and wield a battle axe!  Hail and kill!

The opening track, “The Revenant King,” is excellent and is a perfect showcase of what Visigoth is all about.  It’s over eight minutes of Epic Metal that tells the tale of a king slain by treacherous bastards and how he exacts his revenge from beyond the grave.  Spoiler Alert – their flesh is rended from their bones! The band has released a super-cheesy and, therefore, super-awesome video that fits the music perfectly.  Check it out:



I could detail each track, but there’s really no need because every one of them is excellent - from the kickass opener to the nearly ten minute closer “From The Arcane Mists of Prophecy.”  Are you still not sure you want to buy this?  Check out the track “Mammoth Rider” and admit you need to buy this asap!



____________________________________________________________



The Bottom Line:  This is a stunning collection of Epic Metal with U.S. Power Metal touches and burly vocals.  Crom’s teeth man! Stop being a treacherous dog, join the Iron Brotherhood and buy the damn thing!  

As always, MAKE MINE METAL!

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Heavy Metal Heat

Night Demon – Curse Of The Damned



Century Media Records – 2015

Muthas, how many times have you loved a band’s first release, particularly an EP, only to have their subsequent full length follow-up completely suck?  You know the story - a big label gets ahold of the band and grinds all the sharp edges off their previously gritty sound, or the band doesn’t have much good material beyond what they put on the EP.  That brings us to the first full length LP by Night Demon and this time nobody’s going to disappointed!  Curse Of The Damned kicks all sorts of ass and picks right up where the EP left off!  No letdown here! No sir, no way!

If you’re not familiar with Night Demon just imagine the best NWOBHM band playing melodic, hooky Metal with loads of conviction and sincerity.  This isn’t some cynical ploy by some corporation to make a few bucks based on the resurgence of Traditional Metal.  Rather, it’s the product of a band completely dedicated to the DIY ethos of the NWOBHM.  These guys mean it and live it like few bands do anymore.  They are tireless roaddogs and seem willing to play anywhere, anytime no matter how big or small the crowds are.  From European festivals to basement parties in an old house, these guys are out there laying it down.  That’s as Metal as it gets!  But how's the damn LP sound you ask?  Well read on my friend.

The album is crammed full of killer speedballs like “Screams In The Night,” "Run For Your Life," and “Full Speed Ahead,” but also features a couple of longer songs such as “The Howling Man” and “Save Me Now.”  Both of those tracks are excellent but “The Howling Man” is the epic centerpiece of the album with a very cool intro.  Lyrically it’s based on an old Twilight Zone episode of the same name that deals with a man imprisoned in a church.  Spoiler Alert – he’s Satan and it's probably better for all parties if he's kept locked up. Trust me on this one.

The hard rockin’ “Heavy Metal Heat” is a rollicking cut that celebrates both the Metal fans and the bands out there crushing skulls for a living.  Call it cliché but we can’t get enough of songs that extol the glories of Metal and rocking in general.  “Livin’ Dangerous” is another complete party of a tune that  is sure to get any crowd going.  “Curse Of The Damned” is the first single and is an amazing track that initially reminds of “The Zoo” by the Scorpions and then plunges headlong into even more excellence.  Check out a live version below:



Musically the band is tight as hell and their songwriting is top notch.  Jarvis Leatherby’s vocals are excellent and fit the music like a glove.  At some points, he reminds me of Zeeb Parkes of Witchfinder General – particularly during the chorus of “Satan”- but he’s got his own style and displays it magnificently.  His bass playing is very good as well and it’s mixed upfront as it should be.  Brent Woodward’s guitar playing is great and always serves the song - he plays with subtlety or flash depending on what is required.  The drumming by Dustin Squires is also exemplary and helps tie every song together perfectly.  Night Demon is the very definition of a power trio!

Curse Of The Damned will be available in several formats – CD, Vinyl and digital download.  The Vinyl features a cover of Riot’s “Road Racin’” and the download has that cover as well as a re-recording of the song “The Chalice” from their EP.  Century Media has several pre-order packages available and the band is offering an exclusive vinyl edition and a die hard bundle.  You can order that here.
_________________________________________________________


The Bottom Line:   Curse Of The Damned is all killer no filler, as we old people used to say back in the days of yore.  It’s well worth your coin and I urge all fans of the NWOBHM, Traditional Metal, or just good music in general to go out and buy it.  Don’t suck at life – support Night Demon and their mission to take over the world one listener at a time.  BUY IT!!!!


As always, MAKE MINE METAL!

Sunday, January 4, 2015

You're The Best Around (No, Not You, But Fourteen Albums Are)

Muthas, 2014 is in the books and once again we’ve picked the top fourteen Metal albums of the year. We’ve also picked the best live albums, best reissues, best live shows, and the biggest disappointment of the year. Read on!


The Fourteen Best Albums of 2014


2014 offered up tons of quality Heavy Metal for your listening pleasure and here are the fourteen releases that dominated our turntables, CD players and mp3 players at The Metal Blog of Metal.




Grand Magus – Triumph and Power

The Magus cranks out yet another rock solid album that is loaded with epic tunes.  Drink some mead and crank this up! Read the full review here.




Overkill – White Devil Armory

The Wrecking Crew delivers another stellar Thrash opus. Read the full review here.




Judas Priest – Redeemer of Souls

The Priest is back!  An unexpectedly good album that manages to overcome a weird mix.  Check out the full review here.




Orange Goblin – Back From The Abyss

A bludgeoning masterpiece of burly, manly, beardy Metal!  Orange Goblin serves up a disc that may just be best of their career.  If we gave out a best of the year, this may have been it.  So damn good! BUY, BUY, BUY!!!




The Dagger – The Dagger

Sweden strikes again with an album that’s full of excellent 70s style Metal.  Imagine a tasty brew composed mostly of Rainbow and sprinkled liberally with Thin Lizzy, and Judas Priest.  It’s a very impressive album especially considering ¾ of the band is composed of former members of Dismember.  Highly recommended!




Striker – City of Gold

The first of three awesome Canadian releases in our best of 2014. Strikers third album is a smashing combo of Speed Metal and Traditional Metal.  The band they most recall is the godly Vicious Rumors.  All of their albums are excellent and this is as good a place as any to start.  Buy or die! 




Midnight Malice – Proving Grounds

Canadian band number two on our list crushed 2014 with a killer Traditional Metal disc that is hooky as all hell.  They completely delivered the goods after being mostly silent since their 2010 demo Pray For Death.  The only negative is they advertise this as a CD on their website, but it’s actually a CDR.  That’s kind of shitty, but the quality of the music more than offsets this minor disappointment.  If you dig Riot and other good Traditional Metal bands you need to add this to your collection post-haste.




Bullet – Storm of Blades

If you don’t know about Bullet by now here’s their obvious description - take one part Accept and one part AC/DC and mix in a metric shit-ton of fun.   Storm of Blades is a focused and blistering offering, and it's a definite step up from the average Full Pull.  Don’t miss this one.  Killer Anvil-esque album cover too! 




Skull Fist – Chasing The Dream

The last of our Canadian trio, Skull Fist brought out their best album yet in 2014.  They cranked back on Jackie Slaughter’s insane vocals a tiny bit, but kept the excellent songwriting and hooks.  Some complain that his vocals are (possibly?) auto-tuned, but we didn’t because the album kicks all kinds of ass.  Hail Canada! 




Stallion – Rise and Ride

German bangers Stallion’s first full album is a cool combo of Heavy Metal, Speed Metal and a bit of a Sleaze Metal edge.  Fun. Fun. Fun.  They completely embrace the early 80s Heavy Metal aesthetic  of songwriting and fashion.  Tiger stripes and bandanas ahoy!  They even have a song called “Wild Stallions.”  Party on dudes!




Primal Fear – Delivering The Black

Something of a comeback for these Power Metal veterans, with great songs and a real sense of urgency to the writing.  Read the full review here.




Grave Digger – Return of the Reaper

Speaking of Germany, these stalwarts have brought out a killer album that’s NOT a concept album!  Hooray!  It’s a pummeling platter of muscular Power Metal.  Also, the album cover is amazing.  Highly recommended!




Stone Dagger – The Siege of Jerusalem

A little bit of cheating here, but were adding this to our 2014 list because the original 2013 release was very limited to a few cassettes and it didn't get a wide release until 2014.  This two-tracker recalls all of the best of the NWOBHM and is an absolute must buy.  Go get this now. Seriously.  NOW!




Wolf – Devil Seed

Wolf are one of the bands that kicked off the whole NWOTHM movement way back in 1999 and they are still going strong today.  They always seem to get lost in the shuffle, but Devil Seed is another great addition to their legacy of high quality Traditional Metal.  It’s definitely worth your coin if you dig music that doesn’t suck.  


Live – After Death! – The Best Live Albums of 2014




Satan – Trail Of Fire – Live In North American

Documenting NWOBHM legends Satan’s first tour of North America, Trail Of Fire is a very good set of classics that will please any fan of the band or the genre. The band sounds great with Brian Ross's vocals being just as good now as their were way back in the 80s.  The crowds are very excited to hear them which makes this a really special live album.  Pick it up.




Whitesnake – Live In ’84 – Back To The Bone

Here’s a song for ya!! This is a deluxe CD + DVD package that showcases Whitesnake’s killer 1984 lineup at Super-Rock Japan.  Also included are several other live tracks from the same time period as well as Jon Lord’s final show with the band.  This is Whitesnake at their peak with John Sykes before 1987’s “Whitesnake” album.  Just get it.


Born Again – The Best Reissues of 2014


Revered Reverend EP, World Won’t Miss You, Play God, Live EP

Divebomb Records deluxe reissues of the entire Reverend Caroline Records catalog.  These are mandatory for any Metal Church fan or fans of Power Thrash in general.  Get ‘em before their gone.

Picture – Picture 1, Heavy Metal Ears, Diamond Dreamer, Eternal Dark

Divebomb Records strikes again with four albums from the Netherlands own Picture!  Superb Traditional Heavy Metal that will please fans of 70s and early 80s Judas Priest.  Pitch those shitty Greek bootlegs and pick these deluxe editions up.  Great stuff!

S.A. Slayer – Prepare To Die, Go For The Throat

Finally!  A legit 2 on 1 reissue of the legendary “other Slayer” from San Antonio, Texas.  This is from the excellent Polish label Skol Records and is very nicely done – just like all of their reissues.  Buy!

Satan’s Host – Metal From Hell, Midnight Wind

It’s another excellent, finally legit reissue from the good folks at Skol Records. Get this and see where it all began for Leviathan Thisiren and company way back in 1986.  By the hands of the devil indeed!


Black Conventicles – The Best Concerts of 2014


Metal Church – March 7th, The Rex Theater, Pittsburgh, PA

A great set of classics and very little new material from Metal Church on a Friday night in the Steel City.  They were filming a concert video so we actually got to hear “Start The Fire” and “Ton of Bricks” twice back to back!  Very cool.  Unfortunately, this proved to be the last tour with Ronny Munroe, as he left the band shortly thereafter.  Here’s hoping they can continue with another vocalist before they lose the momentum built up from their return. 

Black Label Society/Down – May 15th, Stage A.E., Pittsburgh, PA

It was nice to see BLS, but the real attraction was finally getting to see Down and Phil Anselmo.  Phil and the boys belted out a great set of Down classics and left us wanting more.  This is the fourth or fifth time that we’ve seen BLS and Zakk always delivers his guitar hero antics with style and flash.  A fun time was had by all.

Primal Fear – May 24th, The Altar Bar, Pittsburgh, PA

It was quite unexpected when Primal Fear announced a United States tour and that it would be hitting Pittsburgh.  Seeing as this was their second-to-last show in the States, their performance was excellent and they band was tight as hell.  They delivered song after song of top-notch German Power Metal to the faithful that ventured out that night.  It was a damn good set that showcased a band thats far from running in the dust.  Hailz!

King Diamond – October 19th, Stage A.E., Pittsburgh, PA

It was a definite treat seeing the revitalized King Diamond and his theatrical stage show of evil awesomeness right before Halloween!  It was pure chance that had him book a show here in the Steel City, and everyone there was glad to see him back in action.  Here’s hoping that more tours and albums follow.  A new Mercyful Fate album and tour would be great too!



Message In Blood – The Best Album Cover of 2014


Grave Digger – Return of the Reaper



Now that’s an awesome cover!  The Grim Reaper, a graveyard, fire, a casket, and ravens all presented as if they are coming right at you as they bust out of the graveyard.  Sweet! Looks exceptionally good on vinyl.



The System Has Failed – The Biggest Disappointments of 2014


Sebastian Bach – Give ‘Em Hell

We keep waiting for Baz to unleash a worthy follow up to the smoking Angel Down and he’s never gotten close.  The album sounds uninspired and his vocals are weirdly strained on much of the material.  WTF?  Also, the album cover is an abomination. Boo!!!!  Get Metal Mike Chlasciak back and write some better material.  We'll be waiting. 

Accept – Blind Fury

It’s a pile of meh.  Full review here.


The 124th Annual The Metal Blog of Metal 
Comeback Of The Year Award




Chromium Dioxide Magazine

If you don’t read this Canadian Metal ‘zine I pity your shallow, colorless existence.  It’s packed full of hilarity, Metal, VHS bargain bin treasures, and everything else the 1990 version of me thought was great. Main men Philthy Chromium and Dave Slimer hadn’t been able to put out an issue since 2011 due to various fires, health scares, and other shittiness, but now they are back for the attack!  Buy it here and know what it is to live life to the fullest as a man should do.  Hoist a midnight champagne with me in celebration!  Cheers! 

_____________________________________________________

Have a great 2015 and as always, MAKE MINE METAL!


Sunday, December 21, 2014

(Not that) Restless and Fairly Mild

Accept – Blind Rage





Nuclear Blast Records – 2014

Muthas, the Teutonic Terrors Accept are back with their third album since their reformation in 2009 – Blind Rage. The previous two albums with Mark Tornillo were both great slabs of excellent traditional Metal that had all the hallmarks that fans expect of Accept.  How does this new album stack up agaist the standards set by Blood of the Nations and Stalingrad

Unfortunately, Blind Rage is something of a disappointment.  Interviews with the band made it sound like this album would be very heavy and aggressive – it’s titled Blind Rage after all, and the album starts off quite well with the kickass “Stampede” and the celebration of the history of Metal that is “Dying Breed.” 



It’s then that the album comes to a screeching halt with “Dark Side of My Heart.”  This track starts out with a riff borrowed from “Up To The Limit” (which is awesome) but then slides into a melancholy bore.  WTF?  This is followed by a succession of underwhelming songs – “Fall of the Empire,” “Trail of Tears,” and “Wanna Be Free.”  At this point, the listener wants to be free of boredom by listening to something else.   

Thankfully, the pace, and the song quality, pick up with “200 Years” and “Bloodbath Mastermind.”  Both cuts are very good and are up to the standard set by the other Tornillo helmed albums, but the next two songs - “The Curse” and “From The Ashes We Rise” - are plodding and just as melancholy as most of the rest of the album.  The last track, “Final Journey,” does finish off the album with a bang and is one of the best tracks on the disc.

I know the band had more time to write and record this album, and I think this lack of urgency is reflected in the overall tone of the album.  It’s a weird, gloomy album that both musically and lyrically feels depressing.  A couple of speedier tunes in the vein of “Pandemic” or “Beat The Bastards” would have really helped to propel this album and break up the slower material. 

Does anyone really want to hear several slow songs bemoaning the fate of the world and the trite pablum of “Wanna Be Free”?  I know I don’t.  This is Metal for the love of God!  Strap it on and start kicking some ass!  Sheesh.

_____________________________________________________________


The Bottom Line: Accept’s new album is a something of a disappointment and is definitely the least of the Tornillo trilogy.  Not enough songs with that killer Accept viciousness help to drag Blind Rage down to the merely ordinary.  Accept fans will find some good tracks, but this album isn’t essential by any means.  At least the deluxe edition comes with a great live DVD – so we’ve got that going for us.  Which is nice.

As Always, MAKE MINE METAL!